Jim Francesconi, artificial reef program coordinator for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, passed away on July 18 during the second round of a prolonged battle with leukemia. Francesconi was at N.C. Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill recovering from a stem-cell transplant when he contracted a virus that morphed into pneumonia and his weakened immune system was unable to fend it off.  

Francesconi was dedicated to the artificial reef program and was held in high regard by co- workers and the numerous reef association groups along the coast.

“Jim was a true ecologist/biologist,” said Dr. Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. “He taught me many things as a new biologist supervisor when I started with DMF in 1995. He was dedicated to his craft and excelled at building relationships with constituents, who always passed along positive comments about their interactions with him. He leaves behind a great legacy of professionalism and an artificial reef array that will benefit fishermen and our coastal resources for years to come. He will be sorely missed by DMF as a wonderful colleague and friend.”

“Jim Francesconi was more than just the coordinator of the artificial reef program,” said Bob Black, project chairman for the Long Bay Artificial Reef Association. “You could tell he cared about the reef projects and those of us on the local level. He worked hard for the reefs, and with his genuine personality and dry wit became a friend to all of us. The reef groups in North Carolina will miss him as an associate, and many, like me, will miss him as a friend.”

 Francesconi began with NCDMF in 1987 as a biologist; he became the artificial reef coordinator in 2000. His efforts produced hundreds of reef enhancements from the Outer Banks to the South Carolina line and established artificial reefs AR 398, AR 400 and, most recently, AR 430. Under Francesconi’s guidance, North Carolina added six vessels to artificial-reef locations.  

A memorial service for Francesconi will be held Aug. 7 at 6 p.m. at All Saints Anglican Church in Newport.